• English
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish
  • Swedish

Insurance Funding Request

Did you know Firefly products may be funded by your insurance?

Learn More
Back to Firefly Blog

Non-Verbal Doesn’t Mean Non-Communicative

Non-Verbal Doesn’t Mean Non-Communicative

There is a perception ‘out there’ that children who, for all kinds of reasons, are labelled or identified as ‘non-verbal’, are unable to communicate. That having less speech than other children (or no perceived speech at all) means that they cannot share how they are feeling, what they need, what they want to do, or any of the vast range of things that humans communicate with each other all day, every day.

This perception creates huge levels of anxiety both for the children themselves and their families. Speaking ‘like everyone else’ becomes a mountain to climb, something that must be conquered at all costs. What it can also do is to overlook and diminish the many other wonderful ways that children communicate, often subtly, but nevertheless being used clearly to share so much with us.

Those who have studied nonverbal communication tell us that perhaps 60-70 per cent of our communication doesn’t rely on words. So why do we put so much energy into trying to force our ‘nonverbal’ children to use that 30-40 per cent of communication and speak, instead of also focussing on learning their communication skills and ways of sharing with us that are perhaps twice as common? It’s like trying to teach Japanese to a child without understanding or using their own first language.

Whether it is the use of eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, positioning and posture, all kinds of body language, mood, or the sounds made, the loudness, pitch, rhythm or tone used, all and more are communicative.

My son, James, has a very limited range of verbal communication, maybe 20 words that he can use, but his communication is fluent. He makes it abundantly clear how he is feeling, what he wants or needs, what he wants to do etc. We just need to tune in to his communication and understand it. Just like any ‘language’ it can take time to learn the communication our children use; sometimes we don’t pick up on something straight away and this can cause frustration, but patience and practice help!

One of James’ few words is “appy!”, which he will often use to communicate how he is feeling, whether he is happy or not. If James uses “appy!” while his face is frowning and his lips are turned down, if his eyes are downcast, if his tone is abrupt and low, if he is scrunched up on the sofa with his legs pulled up, he is telling us how he is feeling in all of those ways while using “appy!” as a general catch-all for feelings.

Non-Verbal communication is complex and can take more decoding than verbal communication, but it can be just as rich and expressive if we are willing to learn it. So, if your child is labelled or identified as ‘non-verbal’, as well as carefully exploring ways together to see if they can develop some use of speech, make sure you learn their language too…it’s just as beautiful!

Firefly Blog

Real life stories, issues and experiences of day to day life by special needs parents and
healthcare professionals.

Mark Arnold

Meet Our Blogger

Mark heads up Urban Saints pioneering additional needs ministry programme and is co-founder of the ‘Additional Needs Alliance’, a learning and support community. He is a ‘Churches for All’ partner, a member of both the ‘Council for Disabled Children’ and the ‘Living Fully Network’, and serves on the executive for ‘Children Matter!’ Most importantly, he is dad to James, a 17-year-old Autistic boy with Learning Difficulties and Epilepsy.

View Mark’s Profile

Become a Firefly Blogger

Would you like to write for Firefly? Join our blogger network of parents, therapists and professionals.

Get In Touch

Become a subscriber today

Join over 40,000 subscribers to our weekly newsletter with insightful articles just when you need them.

Join Mailing List

By using our site you agree to our use of cookies. Click here for more info.

Accept & Close

No Interest if paid in full in 6 months on

Purchases on $99+

US Customers only. Subject to credit approval. See terms below

Paypal Credit

Pay now or pay over time with PayPal Credit. Just use PayPal Credit in PayPal checkout.

Subject to credit approval.

Purchases of $99+:

No Interest if paid in full in 6 months on purchases of $99 or more.

  • A minimum monthly payment is required and may or may not pay off the promotional purchase by the end of the 6 month period.
  • No interest will be charged on the purchase if you pay it off in full within 6 months. If you do not, interest will be charged on the purchase from the purchase date at the Purchase APR applicable to your account.
  • For New Accounts: Variable Purchase APR is 25.49%. The APR is accurate as of 6/1/2018 and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate (as defined in your credit card agreement). Minimum interest charge is $2.00.
  • Individual items that are less than $99 qualify for special financing when combined for a total of $99 or more in a single transaction.
  • Multiple separate transactions of less than $99 per transaction cannot be combined to meet the minimum purchase amount.

Purchases of $98.99 or less:

Buy now and pay over time with PayPal Credit when you spend $98.99 or less.

  • If you pay your balance in full each month by the payment due date that is on your statement, you can avoid paying interest.
  • Or, make minimum monthly payments, or any additional amount of your choosing, until you've paid off your balance according to your standard account terms. Please note, interest charges may apply.
  • We'll send you email reminders when your payments are due. You can also keep track of your account and view your statements online at any time.

About PayPal Credit

  • PayPal Credit is a reusable credit line available on purchases at thousands of stores that accept PayPal. It's also available for purchases on eBay and exclusively at thousands of other online stores. Plus, it comes with the same security and flexibility you trust from PayPal.
  • If approved, we start you off with a minimum credit line of at least $250. See FAQs for more info.
  • For New Accounts: Variable Purchase APR is 25.49%. The APR is accurate as of 6/1/2018 and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate (as defined in your credit card agreement). Minimum interest charge is $2.00. See Terms and Conditions tab for more info.
  • If you miss a payment your late fee could be up to $38, even less if it's your first time. See FAQs for more info.

Please wait...